Fantasy Mailbag: Expectations a terrible burden

Each week I'll answer a handful of the most pertinent questions I've received during the week in my attempt, weak as it might be, to bring insightful fantasy analysis to the fore (my email address is listed at the bottom of the piece if you wish to drop me a line).

What the heck is up with Edwin Jackson? I thought he was legit? -- Jason, Brownsville, Texas.The answer Jason is that nothing is wrong with Edwin Jackson. People get all wrapped up with player's hot starts sometimes and fail to realize that things have a tendency to normalize over the course of the year. Consider the following data points.

(1) Jackson is only two victories from his career best of 14 set last season.

(2) Jackson has never posted an ERA below 4.42, so his current mark of 3.37 is tremendous. Sure he hasn't been very good at all for two months with a 5.21 ERA over his last nine starts, but overall when you drop your ERA by a full run, well, how can you complain about that?

(3) Jackson currently sports a 1.24 WHIP. Other than his 22 inning rookie season in 2003, Jackson has never posted a number below 1.51. Again this ratio has been poor since the All-Star break (1.54), but overall the number is still superb for a man who never once has bettered the league average in this category.

(4) Jackson has a career best 151 Ks thanks to a 6.97 K/9 mark that is more than half a batter above his career mark of 6.39. Jackson also sports a career best 2.40 K/BB mark, almost a full point above his pathetic career mark of 1.58, thanks to the fact that he has walked less than three guys per nine innings this season. Still, that ratio has also dipped over his last 12 starts down to 1.93. It's a broken record by now, but even with his late season struggles his overall work is still a career best.

Expectations are a terrible burden, and they threaten to tarnish the fine effort that this righty has put out there this season in a year filled with numerous career bests despite the fact that he is limping to the finish line.

As a Yankee fan and an A.J. Burnett owner, I'm really disappointed. Why has he struggled so badly this year while CC Sabathia has done so well? Was it the pressure?-- Don, Rochester, New York

The answer to this question is two-fold. (1) CC Sabathia is a great pitcher. (2) A.J. Burnett simply isn't -- and that has nothing to do with pressure from the media of the fans.

Sure, it's disappointing that Burnett has just 11 victories this season, but that is his second best total in four years. On the strikeout front, Burnett is nine punchouts away from tying his second best mark in the past four season of 176, though his K/9 mark this season has dipped from over nine the past two years down to 8.21. Still, his career mark is 8.34, so he really hasn't fallen off as much as it may first seem. His WHIP? That is a problem and it looks like he will post the worst full season mark of his career at 1.40. Of course, his previous worst of 1.34 was set last season, so it can't be said that his mark this year is a complete shock. His ERA? After five years under 4.10 his current mark of 4.33 is certainly disappointing, but it can be argued that he has actually done a decent job keeping that number where it is given that his left on base percentage this year of 75 percent is the second best mark of his career. If that number was more in line with his 72 percent career mark that ERA would likely be even higher.

In the end, the season that Burnett has authored is certainly slightly disappointing. At the same time, nothing we have seen from him this season is completely out of the realm of a potential outcome given his skill set, and you have to give him credit for at least one thing -- for the first time in his career he has managed to throw at least 180-innings in back-to-back seasons so at least he was healthy for the most part.

Going into next season I can only keep one of Rajai Davis and Michael Bourn. Which one should I keep, and which one should I let go?-- Fred, Wilmington, North Carolina

As I discussed in my most recent By the Numbers piece, Davis' second half effort (.345-1-36-37-28 in 55 games) hasn't just been good, it's been historic (and if you don't buy that statement on the surface, give the BTN piece a read to validate the claim). Davis, finally being given a chance to play every day, is hitting .313 on the year, and his 39 steals place him fourth in the AL despite the fact that the three men above him (Jacoby Ellsbury -- 61, Carl Crawford -- 58 and Chone Figgins -- 42) all have at least 240 more at-bats that Davis. Still, Davis owns a below average 0.48 BB/K mark and of even bigger concern is the fact that his batting average is likely a mirage. Davis, who hit just .256 during his first three seasons, is currently sporting an unsustainable .370 BABIP mark which is sizably ahead of where one would expect it to be given his career mark (.331) and the fact that his line drive rate is 21 percent this season.

As for Bourn, we are taking about an almost identical skill set in many respects. Bourn is hitting .294 on the year with a 0.52 BB/K mark, and that is a mirror image of Davis' work. Bourn also owns a .371 BABIP, another unsustainable number, but he would appear to have one talent that may make the falloff more gradual than Davis -- and that is his ability to do what he does best, and that is hit the ball on the ground and run. Bourn owns a terrific 2.75 groundball to flyball ratio which means he hardly ever gives away an at-bat by hitting a weak fly ball. Davis? His G/F is less than half of Bourn's at 1.29.

If there are no salary considerations for next season I'd say go with Bourn for two reasons. One is that G/F ratio that I mentioned, because as the old adage goes, speed never goes into a slump. Second, Bourn is pretty much certain to pile up 500+ ABs, barring injury, and Davis isn't a sure bet to do so. Remember, GM Billy Beane would trade his mother if he got a good deal, and if Davis starts out poorly next year what is to stop the A's from going with a younger player? After all, Davis is no spring chicken at 28 years old (he will be 29 in October).

I don't get something. Why does Adam Dunn get no love? I know about the strikeouts and all, but he has been hitting .280 this year so I don't get why he doesn't get more love. -- Josh, Birmingham, Alabama

You and me both Josh.

Dunn has hit exactly 40 homers in each of the past four seasons, and he has reached that total five straight years (he hit 46 in 2004). With 37 this season he is on the cusp of a 6-year run of 40 bombs which would tie Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa for the second longest streak in the history of the game (Babe Ruth reached the mark seven straight years from 1926-32). Obviously Dunn is a powerful beast at the dish.

Dunn has knocked in at least 92 runs in each of the last six years (including 2009), and only four other man can make that claim: Mark Teixeira, Bobby Abreu, Carlos Lee and Adam Dunn. In addition, Dunn has also crossed home plate at least 76 times in each of the past six seasons making him one of only 11 men in that club. Moreover, Dunn owns a .384 career OBP, a number he has exceeded each of the past three years (.386, .386 and .410). You know how many men have gotten on base at least 38 percent of the time the past three years in a season of at least 502 plate appearances each year? The answer is just nine.

So why no love? Dunn has no speed on the bases with only 11 steals the past three years, and the guy has whiffed at least 164 times in each of the past six seasons. Dunn also has a .251 career betting average, well below average, but this season that number is sitting at a career best .280 thanks to a career-high .346 BABIP. All told, care to guess how many men are hitting .280 with 35 homers, 90 RBI and 75 runs scored this season? The answer is four: Prince Fielder, Teixeira, Albert Pujols and Dunn. I don't think I have to say anything else to prove just how underrated the guy continues to be.

Justin Morneau missing the rest of the year is just killing me. My question is do I let this setback effect his keeper status for next season, or should I just brush it aside?-- Leo, Naperville, Illinois

Justin Morneau will miss the rest if the season due to a stress fracture in his back. The injury should be healed completely by the start of 2010, so you should draft Morneau as you normally would.

Morneau has hit at least 30 homers in three of the past four seasons, he hit "only" 23 in 2008, and over that four year span he has knocked in at least 100 runs each season. How many others have hit at least 23 dingers with 100 or more RBI in each of the past four seasons? The answer is three, and they all play first base: Pujols, Teixeira and Ryan Howard. You would be wise to also throw Miguel Cabrera and Fielder into that upper echelon of bats at first base, but the bottom line is that Morneau clearly deserves his spot amongst the best non-Pujols hitters in the game who call first base home.

However, one caveat should be mentioned. As Ted Carlson so aptly pointed out in great detail in one of his columns at Five Tool Blog, Morneau has clearly established himself as the anti-Adam LaRoche, that is a player who falls completely apart late in the year, so if you have Morneau on your roster next season it wouldn't be a bad idea to move him right before the trade deadline.

Ray Flowers is Managing Editor for Owners Edge and His work can be found weekly, exclusively at the home of fantasy baseball: To email Ray a question for next week's piece, drop him a line at

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